The Artifact (Book 2, Time Series)

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Chapter Twenty-Eight: Morgan's Doubt

July 2023
Ned Billings’ Farm
Redwater, Virginia

}}}-----> MORGAN <-----{{{

It isn’t long before large drops of rain begin pounding the windshield. Morgan turns on the wipers and wrinkles her nose at the foreboding sky ahead. The afternoon at the Billings Farm had been so pleasant, and the weather so perfect, it was hard to believe such a nasty storm was coming in. She hopes that it’ll clear up by the time they reach the university. Samantha had wanted to pick out screens and shovels for Thursday’s excavation at the farm before heading home, instead of going in tomorrow or early Thursday morning. But Morgan had no desire to pack equipment in the rain.

Conversation with Samantha had dwindled as the new mother, on her first outing since having baby Melia, drifted to sleep in the passenger seat about ten minutes ago. But Morgan doesn’t mind, as she’s sure Samantha could use a bit of rest without her infant daughter waiting to wake her up. What does bother her though is Wahya’s brooding atmosphere from the back seat ever since they’d left the Billings Farm. Surely, the only reason for his soured mood is herself, she thinks inwardly.

“He hasn’t even looked at me since we got back in the car. I probably overstepped my boundaries by kissing him. And now, having had time to think about it, he thinks it was wrong.”

Never being that frisky in her life after just meeting a guy, Morgan continues her pondering, “What got into me back there?! I mean, I know we’re both attracted to each other, but really, Morgan!?”

She knows she doesn’t have a good excuse for grabbing him by the shirt and kissing him fully on the mouth within only the first thirty hours or so of knowing the guy. “But he sure didn’t push me away, did he?” She surmises.

Her stomach flutters at the memory of his lips against hers and she’s sure she’s blushing now, “No, I really think he wanted to kiss me just as much. And oh, what a kiss! I don’t know, I just don’t understand my feelings.”

She glances in the rear-view mirror at the glaringly handsome man, staring out his window, and attempts to list the qualities that would make it okay for her to kiss him, “Extremely attractive, masculine in all the right ways, but not a macho brute. Very smart, sensible, fun. Did I mention his sexy body and that he’s an excellent kisser?!”

She internally shakes her head, “Well, you didn’t really know he was a good kisser before you kissed him, so that one doesn’t count. And you’ve only known him for twenty-four, maybe thirty-ish hours! You don’t really KNOW him as a person!”

Hating that she’s making herself - no, that Wahya, with his brooding mood, is making her feel guilty for her irrational feelings - then even more so, hating herself for acting upon those feelings, she feels tight knots forming in her stomach, “I’m sure women from his era weren’t throwing themselves at guys willy-nilly like that. They probably would have been more... oh, what’s the word... demure?! Hell, it’s not even normal for women in THIS era! God, Morgan! How embarrassing!”

The final half hour of the drive back to the university was spent in complete silence, with both Wahya and Morgan in their own funks - the weather not helping to lighten the mood. Finally waking, Samantha groggily sits up in her seat as Morgan parks as close to the field supply tool shed as possible, the rain still coming down heavily.

“Oh! I didn’t realize it was raining so bad!” Samantha murmurs unhappily. “We don’t really need to do this today. You should have woken me up before we drove all the way here!”

Morgan sighs, “Well, we’re here now, and it’s supposed to be just as rainy tomorrow. We might as well get it done now.” Then reaching between the car seats she pulls out an umbrella, “I’ve got this! And it shouldn’t take us more than a few minutes to get into the shed, pick out the tools we want, then Wahya and I can carry it all to the car.”

She hands Samantha the umbrella, who laughs, “I’m not going to melt in the rain just because I had a baby, you know! And I’m very capable of carrying things, too!”

“Yeah, I know. But James doesn’t! And he would want you to use the umbrella.” Morgan begins to open her door, “He already told me not to let you do anything too laborious. So, I’m just making sure I don’t get into trouble with him!”

“Pfft! Men are something else! A woman can have a baby and yet they think we’re fragile!”

The two laugh, then Morgan sees Wahya in the rear view mirror and realizes that she needs to let him know that they’re going to get out now and that he should come with them. Her nerves are now on edge with the assumption that he’s been brooding over her kiss, and she clears her throat nervously, turning in her seat, trying to act as normal as possible, despite the embarrassment still eating at her insides.

She points to the large brick shed, “We have to go over there and bring stuff back to car. Come on.”

Motioning for him to follow, the three of them exit the car with Morgan trotting off to the shed, Wahya not far behind her, and Samantha trailing behind with the umbrella, trying to get the key ready. Morgan huddles on the small cement pad in front of the door, hoping that the building would provide some protection from the onslaught of rain. But as the wind is blowing towards the door, so does the rain.

Wahya, in turn, crowds close in front of her, his hair and new clothes already drenched. A little closer than comfort, Morgan presses back against the wall slightly, looking down so as not to look into his face. It’s then she realizes that she probably should have bought Wahya a secondary pair of shoes, as his are clearly getting ruined in the mud and rain.

Trying hard to pretend she hadn’t kissed him earlier, Morgan doesn’t even notice that he’s purposefully blocking as much rain as possible from hitting her, and her sour mood deepens as she notices him looking down at her comically. She wonders just how bad she must look right now, equally soaked.

“Agasgv!” Wahya holds his hand out to further catch the downpour, then again repeats the word, “Agasgv.”

“At least he’s talking to me again,” Morgan thinks. “Maybe he hopes we can just move on now.”

Feeling somewhat bolstered by the thought that she might be able to salvage some of the relationship she’d built with him thus far and try to move past her indiscretion as well, she shouts over the rain, while Samantha unlocks the door, “Agasgv?”

Wahya’s heart-melting smile broadens and suddenly Morgan suddenly forgets the Cherokee word for ‘rain,’ and instead remembers just why she kissed him earlier. Sliding towards the now open door, she makes her escape, ushering him inside the small, earthy-smelling building so they can get to work.

Adjusting her eyes to the darkened area, Samantha surveys the equipment, “I figured Dr. Clark would have left a few good screens, but there’s only one that’s not entirely broken.”

“That’s okay,” Morgan replies. “James says you’re not digging or doing anything strenuous anyway, so we don’t need more than one screen.”

Samantha gives her a dirty look, “What James doesn’t know won’t kill him. Though a certain Collections Manager might find herself in trouble if she tattles.”

The two fill the room with laughter and Morgan feels more like herself again. She hadn’t been on a dig in a while and enjoys learning from Samantha. The excitement of their impending investigation begins to get the better of her, as she goes through the shovels, checking for broken handles and blades, handing three good ones to Wahya to hold.

On the return trip to the car, Wahya carries the large screen, and a shovel, while Morgan takes the other two shovels and a tree branch clipper, and Samantha carries a brush, dustpan, and a bucket with a couple trowels, measuring tapes, and twine. Despite Samantha’s efforts to share the umbrella, by the time they make it back to the small SUV and load the equipment into the back, Morgan and Wahya look like they’ve gone swimming.

Upon hearing Wahya’s shoes squish loudly with water after getting seated in the car again, Samantha says chagrined, “I’m really sorry, guys! We should’ve just waited to get up early Thursday and do this then. I just thought it’d be easier for everyone. I have such a hard time getting up in the morning with Melia, you know.”

Morgan interrupts, “Hey, forget it! Remember, I’m the one who voted to just get it done now. A little rain won’t kill us! And Wahya doesn’t look unhappy - slurping tennis shoes and all!” Buckling her seat belt, Morgan jokes, “You can make it up to him by buying him a new pair. He wears a half size larger than James.”

The mood to Samantha’s house is much more upbeat, and the rain subsides enough to provide a little more sunlight in the evening horizon. Pulling into the driveway, Morgan puts the car in park as Samantha gathers her things.

“It’s been fun, kids! Sorry I bummed out on the ride back earlier. But I can’t wait till Thursday!”

“It’s all good,” Morgan smiles back. “You did good for your first day back, even if you’re still technically on maternity leave!”

Samantha climbs out of the car, then leans in through the open door, “I’ll be ready to go by eight o’clock sharp! Bye, Wahya!”

Wahya, realizing that Samantha is staying, and they are leaving, returns her wave, “Donadagohvi.”

Once more, she waves goodbye to both of them from the front stoop, as James opens the front door with Melia secure in his arms. Samantha’s smile radiates through the bright sunset as she begins to tell James about her day even before she reaches the door completely.

Now, feeling somewhat less nervous and embarrassed than before, Morgan invites Wahya to move to the front passenger seat, “We’re going back to my place, er home. My home,” she stresses the word she thinks he’d be more familiar with. “You can sit up here if you want.”

After he realizes that she’s offering him a seat up front, Wahya willingly moves, apparently happy to be back in the seat he’d relinquished to Samantha all afternoon. As they pull back onto the main road, he motions to the radio and Morgan nods in agreement, happy he doesn’t seem distant anymore. He puts it on his now-favorite soft rock station and sits back, obviously a little tired - the novelty of riding in the car having worn off - though not necessarily the enjoyment.

Morgan loses herself in thought as well, trying to figure out what to make for dinner and what to do with Wahya tomorrow - should she go into work or stay home? By the time they reach the house, the rain has completely stopped, and the sun is near to setting.

Leaving the tools in the back of the car, they soggily walk up the steps of the house. Morgan takes off her shoes just inside the door, telling Wahya to do the same, not wanting wet shoes on her carpet.

“I’ll go wash - shower - first. Then I can make dinner while you wash.” She motions to herself and makes the established signal for washing by pretending to rub under her arms. Taking him to the living room, she hands him the television remote, and he’s about to take a seat on the couch when she realizes that his jeans are still wet. “No! Don’t sit there!”

Wahya freezes, waiting. More calmly, she continues, “Uh, you can’t sit there in wet clothes.” Then true realization comes over her. “Hold on! You can’t sit around anywhere in wet clothes - you’ll get sick with your Pre-Contact Period immune system!”

Deciding on a change of plans, she guides him to the bathroom, showing him where to leave his wet clothes, then closing the door behind her. She sets out some fresh, comfortable clothes for him on the bed, then shuts the bedroom door as she heads to the kitchen to start dinner in her own wet clothes.

Twenty minutes later, Morgan has quickly managed a meal of pork chops, mixed vegetables, and potatoes, setting the stove to simmer, so it all stays warm until they’re ready to eat. As she puts the last of the silverware on the table, she hears Wahya enter the kitchen from behind her.

“Osiyo,” comes his quiet, but deep hello.

Turning, Morgan is again taken aback by his refreshed and good smelling self. His long, thick, straight hair shines brilliantly, and she’s suddenly overcome with the desire to reach out and touch the silky-smooth texture. Instead, she reminds herself to smile like a normal person and that the Cherokee word for ‘hello’ was what he’d just said.

“Osiyo,” she replies in return happily.

She notices that the few wounds visible on his arms and face seem to be healing, and his bruises are either disappearing or have turned a darker shade of purple. Morgan wonders how the worst of the damage to his shoulder blade and side are but isn’t sure trying to play doctor again at this point is the best idea, given the heated situation earlier in the woods - or how she almost kissed him while tending to his wounds yesterday.

Wahya attempts to ask if he can do anything to help with the meal, and once Morgan understands his offer, shakes her head, “No, everything’s done. I’m going to go clean up quick and we can eat. Wanna watch some TV?”

After getting him situated in the living room, Morgan showers quickly, putting on a simple t-shirt, yoga pants, and her house sandals. Not taking the time to dry her short hair, she fluffs it in her usual style and heads out to find Wahya so they can eat. She finds him with the television off, standing by the bookcase, examining her family photos.

“Hey,” she interrupts him.

He looks up and she feels his eyes taking all of her in. Feeling a bit sloppy with her damp hair and comfy clothes, Morgan blushes, wondering if her gaze had been similarly strong when he’d appeared in the kitchen earlier.

“Osiyo,” he quietly replies, then turning his attention back to the bookshelf, he points to a picture on the upper shelf, “Morgan. Tsatsi?”

Coming closer to see which picture he’s referring to, Morgan smiles, remembering the day she took that photo with her mother at the beach, “That’s my mom. Mother.” She pronounces the formal version more specifically.

Trying to figure out how to express the relationship, she purses her lips, then points to herself, “Um, Samantha. Samantha is Mother.”

Then rocking her arms as if she were carrying a baby, she says, “Baby. Melia.”

Wahya, excitedly nods, remembering the word ‘baby’ from his conversation with James last night, “Vv, usdi! Ba-by.”

Then pointing to her mother again, Morgan repeats Samantha’s name, then as she points to herself in the photo, she says her own name. Deciding that trying to differentiate between ‘baby’ and ‘daughter,’ she simply says as she points to the photo, “Samantha is mother. Melia is baby. Diane is mother. Morgan is baby." Recalling the word he previously said, she points to her mother again and asks, “Tsatsi?”

Wahya nods appreciatively and smiles sweetly, “Vv, tsatsi. Mo-ther.” He studies the photograph a moment longer, then his stomach growls, and Morgan remembers the meal waiting for them in the kitchen.

“You’re hungry! Come on, let’s eat!”

}}}-----> * <-----{{{

Cherokee Words to Know:
Baby = Usdi
Hello = Osiyo
Mother =
Tsatsi
Rain = Agasgv
Until we meet again = Donadagohvi
Yes = Vv
(pronounced uh-uh)

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